Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide – my review
This is the first release from WotC that is neither a core rulebook nor an adventure arc and it’s what I have been waiting for – a campaign guide for the Forgotten Realms. While it doesn’t cover the entire realms as previous editions did, it does concentrate on the (as the title suggests) Sword Coast which is where the story/adventure arcs have been located thus far.
The book is split into five chapters and an appendix:
- Chapter 1: Welcome to the Realms
- Chapter 2: The Sword Coast and the North
- Chapter 3: Races of the Realms
- Chapter 4: Classes
- Chapter 5: Backgrounds
- Appendix: Class Options in the Other Worlds
The preface gives a brief outline of the book, including its origins back in the days of TSR owning D&D, but its main content is the full colour map of the Sword Coast. While it’s a great map it has a few niggling issues for me – it would have been better as an included fold-out poster, as my second issue is that with the way the book is bound part of the map is obscured where it crosses over the pages.
Chapter 1: Welcome to the Realms
This chapter gives us an overview of the post-Sundering Realms and even tells us briefly of the lands beyond the Sword Coast (I’m hoping we’ll get further guides for some of these areas, especially as the Expedition adventures are all set around the Moonsea region which isn’t covered in this book).
We also get details on the calendar of the Realms and its currencies which will add immense flavour to games, but I think the most important section here is the pantheons of the Realms. Descriptions of the numerous gods and their folios, as well as those associated with particular races too present more flavourful options to those of us that play clerics etc (Oh you’re a cleric of the god of War, which one?)
Chapter 2: The Sword Coast and the North
As you’d expect this is detailing the environs and inhabitants of the Sword Coast (and the North, who’d have guessed). It features some nice maps of the locations including city layouts, one of my favourite being a post-Sundering map of Neverwinter.
This whole section is absent of actual rules, being all fluff information for bringing the locations to life but leaving enough latitude for individual DM’s to make them their own.
Chapter 3: Races of the Realms
While not giving new playable races as such it adds a Realms flavour to the existing races available, old school Realms-players/dm’s will remember elves being known as Sun elf, Moon elf etc and the details such distinctions are here. My personal favourites being the Ghostwise Halflings of the Chondalwood and the variant Tiefling racial traits.
Chapter 4: Classes
This section covers not only how the existing classes function and are represented within the Realms but also brings us a few new things too.
The dwarf-only Barbarian path of the Battlerager will be instantly recognisable by readers of the R A Salvatore books, the legacy of Pwent will live on. The other barbarians also get some additional Totem Spirits as the Uthgardt and Reghed Barbarians are a prominent feature of the area.
Bards have long been associated with one of the major power groups in the area, the Harpers, and we now get information and options on the Bardic Colleges and some of the common (and not so common) musical instruments of the Realms.
As the Realms has two very prominent gods of Magic (Azuth and Mystra) we get the Arcana Domain for Clerics. We also get information on the Druid Circles of the Realms, and how they interact with the Harpers and Emerald Enclave.
Fighters gain access to the Purple Dragon Knight martial archetype, this I couldn’t quite see why it was included as the Purple Dragons are a staple of Cormyr which isn’t part of the Sword Coast and surely would have been better kept for a later sourcebook detailing that area, I would also have thought they would have been more suited to being a Paladin archetype but I guess not all Knights need to be holy warriors.
Monks of the Realms are not your usual type (pseudo oriental kung fu masters), that’s not to say they aren’t schooled in the ways of martial combat, they just don’t all have shaved heads and orange robes. The book gives us information on a few Monastic Orders of the Realms (some of which will be familiar) and two new Monastic Traditions – the Way of the Long Death, and the Way of the Sun Soul.
Paladins are a more tolerant lot in the Realms, dependant on their particular faiths tenets. Here we have the common “code of conduct”. The chapter contains information on a trio of Paladin Orders, one of which (Order of Samular) will be familiar to those that played the Princes of the Apocalypse adventure, as well a new Oath for paladin characters, the Oath of the Crown.
Rangers surprisingly get short shrift in this section, despite being abundant across the wilds of the Sword Coast and the North. The only additional information we get is regarding the deities associated with the different racial archetypes of Rangers. I was kind of hoping for at least one optional “path” and perhaps more suggested animal companions here, but nope.
Rogues however get two new archetypes, the Mastermind, a real schemer and person of influence which I can see being great for city based campaigns of intrigue and political maneaouvering, and one I have been waiting for, the Swashbuckler. Duellist extraordinaire and all done with a roguish smile and wink for the ladies. I can see this being a firm favourite very quickly.
Sorcerers, while note being one of my favourite classes, have been a staple in the Realms since 2nd Edition and the appearance of wild magic during the Time of Troubles (oh how I laughed when the party wizard cast his fireball, seeing his little face light up when I told him it was maximum effect, and then see it turn to horror as I add that its centred on himself). To accompany the origins of Wild and Draconic Magic we get the new Storm Sorcery.
Warlocks get a good section on possible patrons for the Archfey, Fiend and Old One paths as well as the new Otherworldly Patron – the Undying – Warlocks of the Undead, how could that possibly go wrong?
The section on Wizards gives us two wizardly groups – The Red Wizards and the War Wizards – neither of which are traditionally associated with the Sword Coast (Red Wizards are from Thay, and War Wizards are from Cormyr), though the Red Wizards did make in-roads in gaining ground during the Sundering adventures (particularly around Neverwinter and Daggerford). We get a new take on another old Realms favourite Arcane Tradition – the Elven Bladesinger. The chapter then closes out with four new cantrips (available for Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards).
Chapter 5: Backgrounds
This chapter presents some Realms-flavoured Background choices to use instead of those presented in the Players Handbook; some are variations on existing ones while others (Far Traveller, Faction Agent to name a couple) are a little different.
Appendix: Class Options in the Other Worlds
This section gives notes on how to adapt the information from this book to be useable in the other Campaign Settings (which will hopefully eventually get their own full guides), such as Dragonlance, Eberron, Greyhawk, or a “Homemade” world.
Overall this book is a nice addition to the options available for players and DM’s alike, while the new class options will be of more use to players, the overall world information will be invaluable to both to bring their Realms adventures to life.
One important thing to note though, at this point in time, none of the class options are currently “legal” for play in the Organised Play events such as Encounters and Expeditions – though word is that there is an update coming to the Adventurers League Players Guide “soon” which will address which (if any) will be allowed in due course (I’m not going to restart the Aaracockra argument).